HR skills: leading HR

HR skills: leading HR

Employee engagement – are you engaging?

Written by Dave Foxall

As HR skills go, this is the big one. Leading human resources. Top dog, big cheese, head honcho, etc. and so on… but how many of us who are, or have been, in HR ever dream of landing that elusive HR Director role? Why wouldn’t we? The power. The glamour. The impotent frustration of it all – denied a seat at the table, or worse, granted it and then ignored… Yes, as C-suite roles go, HR has to be right up there with IT as the ‘fan’ that everybody in the organisation likes to fling the mucky stuff at.

But assuming for a moment that you are possessed of the right balance of promotion frenzy and masochism, if you wanted a top spot in your local HR department, what would you have to do?

The ‘Professional’ definition

Leafing through the CIPD’s professional standards, there’s a competency titled “Leading HR” which is explained thus:

‘Provides active, insight-led leadership: owning, shaping and driving themselves, others and activity in the organisation. Although not everyone will have a role where they lead others, it is still important that they develop and grow in the other two dimensions.’

Soooo… in HR everybody’s a leader, of themselves and “activity” if not always other breathing human beings. So far, so enlightened, and this definition seems to boil down to, have some ‘big picture’ awareness and get on with the job of providing great people services. Not too much to argue with there.

So what does that mean, exactly?

Firstly, it’s about personal leadership (leading yourself?) and seeking feedback, acting on it, improving your work in the context of supporting the business and reaching out to the rest of the team. Seems reasonable.

Then, naturally, there’s a shift to “Leading Others” which includes the usual leadership tropes of role modelling, strategy and vision development (within the context of the organisation’s core business, of course) and building HR capability. And finally, we move on to the core leadership issues of resource planning, performance management, and budgets and finances. Worthy but generic.

Ultimately, leading HR does apply at all levels and it’s about understanding the context in which you are leading (even if it’s only yourself). And that context is that the HR Director role (and by extension the whole HR function) has the shakiest ‘top table seat’ of them all. The context is one of measurably less acknowledgement than many other so-called support functions. Sadly, although it is already a bright shiny new world, corporately speaking, in HR we’re still carrying the legacy of the past and are required to prove that legacy wrong with every action and contribution we make.

It is a heavy burden, when you look at it like that.

On the other hand, we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t enjoy a challenge. And there’s no doubt that people (or “humans”) are the most unpredictable resource and in that sense, when things do go according to plan, our rewards are so much greater.

So maybe that top spot is rather desirable after all. Because if you make it to HR Director, you really must be a true believer, no?

Inspired? Then please give us a call on 01582 714280 to see whether we can be of service to you. We’re here to help!

Categories: Development, HR

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